#11 Missouri Softball 2016 Preview

Missouri Tigers
Overall Rank: #11
Conference Rank: #6 SEC
Missouri Logo 
The Tigers made it back to a familiar place last season; the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately for Mizzou, it was swept by UCLA, ending its season earlier than it had hoped. The season looks to be promising for the Tigers yet again, as they return six position starters and all three pitchers from last season.
2015: 42-16, 14-10
2015 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Ehren Earleywine
Field Players:
The Tigers bring back six position starters, including their top four hitters Sami Fagan, Emily Crane, Taylor Gadbois and Amanda Sanchez. Fagan broke out last season and became Mizzou's top hitter, batting .368 with 12 doubles, three triples, 12 home runs and 66 RBI. Other than home runs, all of those totals led the team. Crane has been a consistent hitter since they day she stepped on campus and finished with a .363 average, an amazing 31:9 walk to strikeout ratio and was a perfect 28-for-28 on the basepaths. Gadbois sets everything up for the Tigers, as the leadoff hitter batted .347 and stole 40-of-43 bases. Amanda Sanchez adjusted to the collegiate game nicely in her freshman season, finishing with 14 home runs and 56 RBI, both second on the team. The team's leading home run hitter, Kirsten Mack, also returns after launching 15 longballs last season en route to a breakout sophomore campaign.
The Tigers were lucky to have two pitchers they felt they could rely on last year in Tori Finucane and Paige Lowary. Finucane's season ended early in the Super Regionals after being hit in the face with a line drive and it will be key to see how the junior, who had a 21-8 record with 140 strikeouts, recovers as she gets back in the circle. Lowary pitched in 37 games (26 starts) and went 18-7 with 164 strikeouts in an impressive freshman campaign. Unlike recent years, the Tigers will have a full stable of arms, as Cheyenne Baxter and freshman Danielle Baumgartner are also in play to get time in the circle. Baxter saw action in 30 games last year.
Who to Watch:
The Tigers brought in nine newcomers, including a good number who will make immediate contributions. Coach Ehren Earleywine and the Tigers will look for two-time All-Sun Belt First Team member, Chloe Rathburn, a transfer from South Alabama, to help the team put up runs. Last season, as a sophomore, Rathburn drove in a school-record 53 RBI. Freshmen Rylee Pierce, Kolby Romaine, Chase Nelson and Regan Nash might also be in play for a lot of playing time as the Tigers try to fill holes at second base, left field and first base.
Final Projection:
The Tigers have been one of the most successful and consistent teams in Coach Earleywine's ten years at the helm. The team will be looking to make its annual run to the NCAA Tournament behind a roster that's a nice blend of upper and underclassmen. Returning the top four hitters, as well as the team's top power hitter and a big bat in Rathburn, will help Mizzou ease its many newcomers into their roles. The Tigers were 111-of-121 on the bases last season and Nash brings some more blazing speed to the lineup. Another thing to look for is to see how Finucane fares after getting back into the circle. Will she be tentative at first? The Tigers, per usual, loaded up its nonconference schedule with games against N.C. State, Oregon, Stanford, Michigan, Cal, Arizona State and Baylor. The Tigers do welcome Tennessee and Georgia, but travel to Alabama and Kentucky, but don't face LSU and Florida in SEC play.
Projected Postseason:  NCAA Softball Tournament
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Taylor Gadbois, OF, 190
Hits: Taylor Gadbois, OF, 66
Home Runs: Kirsten Mack, C/IF, 15
RBIs: Sami Fagan, IF, 66
Runs: Sami Fagan, IF, 58
Stolen Bases: Taylor Gadbois, OF, 40
Wins: Tori Finucane, P, 21
Innings Pitched: Paige Lowary, P, 162.2
Strikeouts: Paige Lowary, P, 164
Complete Games: Tori Finucane, P, 8
Madness 2016 Softball Recruit Rankings:
#23 Rylee Pierce